Brush Strokes: The Classics

In classic art, the Ocean is frequently featured as a dark and dangerous entity, waiting to destroy ships and lives. Marine art progressed along with the evolution of ocean going vessels. Swell-producing tempests and shorebreak mayhem, smashing boats to pieces are common subjects of classic seascapes. In many examples, classic artists painted waves with illuminated skill and menacing detail. In this gallery, we’ll take at look at waves in historical fine art.

The coast and waves are a common theme of Japanese painters and printmakers throughout the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The most famous depiction of waves in art history is Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.” “The Great Wave” is first in Hokusai’s series entitled “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” produced in the ukiyo-e style of woodblock print making. The artist portrays an iconic and beautiful peak about to smash a fleet of fishing boats…or do they quickly turn their boats and ride the wave safely to shore? Maybe a few of the fishermen jump out and bodysurf the wave to safety…

"The Great Wave off Kanagawa"- Katsushika Hokusai 1829
“The Great Wave off Kanagawa”- Katsushika Hokusai 1829
The Sea off Satta- Utagawa Hiroshige 1859
“The Sea off Satta”- Utagawa Hiroshige 1859
Wreck of the King Philip- Gideon Jacques Denny 1878
“Wreck of the King Philip”- Gideon Jacques Denny 1878
"La Vague"- Gustave Courbet 1870
“La Vague”- Gustave Courbet 1870
"Seascape"- Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1879
“Seascape”- Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1879
"Pourville, Flood Tide"- Claude Monet 1882
“Pourville, Flood Tide”- Claude Monet 1882
The Seashore- Leon Dabo 1900
“The Seashore”- Leon Dabo 1900

Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) is best known for his dramatic landscape paintings of the frontier Western United States. But as seen here, he beautifully captured breaking waves and the power of the sea.

The Wave- Albert Bierstadt 1880
“The Wave”- Albert Bierstadt 1880

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900) was a Russian Romantic painter best known for his marine art.

"Ninth Wave"- Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky 1850
“Ninth Wave”- Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky 1850

Winslow Homer (1836-1910) was an American landscape painter, known for his seascapes. 


Famous Seascape Paintings
Japanese Wave Paintings

Albert Bierstadt

Brush Strokes: Blaze Syka


About Blaze Syka:
I grew up in San Diego, CA and demonstrated an interest in the ocean and art at an early age. I swam, played waterpolo, lifeguarded, and drew waves throughout high school and moved up north into colder waters for college and his professional career. My work with exploring and diagramming surf breaks with cross sections is fairly recent but I enjoy exploring angles and challenges in new pieces rendered in this style. Each new work is almost like a puzzle and I’m always looking to add new elements to keep them fresh. I’m currently investing more time into my artwork while working on post graduate studies. I always keep my wetsuit and a pair of bodysurfing fins in my car.

Fun Zone
Fun Zone


Orcas Point
Orcas Point
North Coast
North Coast
Fossil Point
Fossil Point


Tombolo del Norte
Tombolo del Norte
Sea Levels
Sea Levels


Brush Strokes: Matt Beard

Beard 3d by RocheMatt Beard is a very talented and Ocean-inspired artist. Originally from Long Beach, CA, Matt now resides in Humboldt County with his wife and children.  He frequently roams the California coast in a large van full of “art and surfboards and friends and wives and childrens and on occasion even people from Oregon can be found hanging around back in there.”
Matt Beard Art
Here, Matt shares work from his new project: The Insinuation Series.
He provides a perspective that bodysurfers know well. 

What inspires the “Insinuation” project?
Waves. I love ’em. That’s what each painting in this series is all about. But instead of just painting a bunch of waves, I thought it would be interesting to try to convey a sense of a wave’s presence without actually showing the wave itself. The shadow from the wave falling on the surface foam left behind by the previous wave. The water drawing off the shallows. Subtle clues, but hopefully when they register with an ocean minded person, the blanks are filled in and the wave is suddenly imagined and felt instead of seen directly.

It’s easy to paint another picture of a wave, but its not so easy to conceptualize a fresh approach to something so familiar. When you stumble onto a concept like that it’s like discovering a new sandbar or reef on a crowded stretch of coast you’ve been surfing for years. It’s exciting. And you just want to score it as much as possible before the sand shifts or the crowds show up. I’ve only had a few sessions on this “Insinuation Series” so far, but I’m looking forward to more down the line.

*I’ll be showing the entire Insinuation Series, as well as a few other unreleased works, in my first proper art show in San Francisco at the Great Highway Gallery coming up in November/December. “Like Water” will feature the work of two other artists and friends as well, Aleks Petrovitch, and Alexander Schaffer Czech. The opening reception will be held on Friday November 14 from 6-10pm. Any art-minded ocean people within driving range of Ocean Beach, SF should get down, up, or over there.
Insinuation 7
When did you first recognize your artistic talents?
Trick question. I don’t think I’ve even met them yet, so I’m not sure I could pick em out in a crowd. Art has never been something I’ve really felt all that good at, I just find it one of the more meaningful and personally satisfying things I’ve found to do with my short time here. I guess if we’re going to call that talent, then that sense of “it’s-the-thing-for-me-to-do” really kicked in when I was about 16 years old, taking an art class in high school for an easy grade because the architectural drafting class was full. It was 1991 I think, the year Rick Griffin passed away. The tribute to his life and work in Surfer magazine that year was my introduction to the idea that art could really be anything you wanted it to be. That’s when I really began to explore freedom in art instead of thinking art was just this thing for old folks to do on weekends. By the way, I love old folks. And weekends.

Insinuation 8

What are your preferred mediums?
I’ve always painted with acrylics, enjoying their simplicity. I hate paint thinner. I like water. Acrylics cleanup with water. Oils need mediums and thinners and they smell and they just seem overly fussy. I use only 3 primaries and white for all my paintings. The limited palette is actually quite versatile, and I find that it helps create nice harmonies across the spectrum of colors since nearly every stroke on the canvas contains at least in trace amounts each of those primaries to varying degrees. I’ve done series of art on various substrates, but I always come back to canvas. Wood is incredibly beautiful to work with, where the grain can become part of the art, but I think there must be a drummer living somewhere deep in my psyche, because I just can’t get enough of the way a stretched canvas vibrates like a drum while painting. Animal was the coolest muppet. True fact. Anyone that denies that, must have inhaled too many paint fumes. And speaking of inhaling paint fumes, I sometimes figure that art itself doesn’t really have much to do with the object created anyway, it’s all about what happens in the mind of the viewer as they take in the object. Like how well written poetry or verse speaks between the lines and often what is said indirectly is more powerful than when it is spelled out verbatim. I think art is like that too, and I want my art to resonate and conjure up unexpected ideas in the viewers mind, so in that sense my most preferred medium really is the human mind.
Insinuation 9
What are your earliest memories of the Ocean?
Down at Bolsa Chica in Orange County I remember one day where the sun was hot and the wind was light and the waves were at least 13 feet and my dad took me out to bob around and float over the waves and I was terrified but not too muchcause I was with Dad. That’s what I remember anyway. Looking back I’m sure it was about 1 foot. I must have been about 2 or 3 years old. I remember the taste of salt too. It was trippy. Most water didn’t have any flavor. Something different was going on out there.
Insinuation 6
How does the Ocean inspire your art?
I guess my art is just a reflection in some way of my life, and the ocean is a big part of that. I’m a bit of an introspective weirdo, so the ocean is a good friend to have. Nothing beats a fun wave and total solitude. It’s not the smartest combo here considering the annual shark voodoo going on out there, but I still find myself gravitating to offbeat sandbars at offpeak times and spending a fair bit of time in the ocean alone. She feeds a color junky like no other. Just being in the ocean and riding waves is an immersive in-the-moment experience, and I find that while painting I can often tap into that same non-thinking-just-flowing headspace. It’s fun.
Insinuation 11
Do you ever bodysurf? What are your thoughts on bodysurfing?
It’s a bit of a rarity. Nobody bodysurfs here much. It’s cold, there’s big giant hungry fish swimming around, the water is usually murky so you can’t see more than a few feet. It’s not like those films we see of Hawaii or La Jolla where it’s all crystal and blissful to just swim around. But that said, I’ve never been opposed to the 20 minute naked man session when confronted with a good shorebreak wedge and lack of surf gear. I’m not good with swim fins honestly. Just never spent the time with em to get the feel, so yeah. I guess I just lost all connection with your readers right there. But seriously if it’s just little wedges with some cushion, not right on dry sand, bodysurfing is a blast. I’m glad somebody’s out there doing it proper. It’s not me, though. I’m just a giggling kook trying not to get broken.
Insinuation 12

Brush Strokes: Shane McClatchey

Shane“Right when you think you have the ocean all figured out it changes your mind.”

Shane grew up in Pleasure Point, New Jersey. Surfing spawned an interest in bodysurfing nasty storm swells. He attended the Laguna College of Art and Design and was gracious enough to share some of his work with us.

"Painting waves started from the perspective as being on the board, now I've become more interested in painting everything going on in the water."
“Painting waves started from the perspective as being on the board, now I’ve become more interested in painting everything going on in the water.”


He began shaping his own handplanes and not long after began using the wood he was finding for his art as well.
He began shaping his own handplanes and not long after began using the wood he was finding for his art as well.


Bodysurfer in Space
“As an artist, bodysurfing is a beautiful thing to see. The surfer’s body is locked into the wave with no board in between.”


"In my artwork I want to keep searching and exploring the world of bodysurfing and everything else in our aquatic lives..."
“In my artwork I want to keep searching and exploring the world of bodysurfing and everything else in our aquatic lives…”


"A perfect day would be could be head high and glassy in New Jersey in the fall or diving for calico bass and sheepshead off of Catalina. Any day where I'm in the water longer than I'm on land, followed by a fire and some beers with good people."
“A perfect day would be could be head high and glassy in New Jersey in the fall or diving for calico bass and sheepshead off of Catalina. Any day where I’m in the water longer than I’m on land, followed by a fire and some beers with good people.”


For more information on Shane’s work, you can check out his website or email him at